Making Plastic Waste Disappear

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Some plastics are just lucky, they become the raw materials for artworks. (Photo by Steven Depolo) creative commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis,

WASHINGTON, DC, March 15, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – Every ton of plastic bottles recycled saves about 3.8 barrels of oil, says the Plastics Industry Trade Association, which has just launched a Zero Net Waste program to help members evaluate waste reduction opportunities and maximize landfill diversion.

The $427 billion U.S. plastics industry, employs nearly one million American workers and is the third largest manufacturing industry in the United States.

Founded in 1937 and based in Washington, DC, the Plastics Industry Trade Association was originally the Society of the Plastics Industry is still known by those initials, SPI.

The Zero Net Waste program grew out of the SPI Recycling Committee’s Emerging Trends Subcommittee, chaired by Kathy Xuan, CEO of PARC Corp, and then developed by a broad workgroup of the association’s members.

“As chair of the subcommittee and a recycler who provides zero landfill services,” said Xuan, “we feel this program will be instrumental in providing tools and resources to accelerate the industry’s pursuit of zero waste.”

The ZNW program manual is designed to enable companies of all sizes to begin pursuing zero waste in their facilities, from building the business case for zero net waste, to educating employees and offering practical guidance on finding the right service providers.

The Zero Net Waste Program isn’t just for companies looking for Zero Waste certification, said Robert Flores, director of sustainability for Berry Plastics, a global manufacturer and marketer of plastic packaging based in Evansville, Indiana.

“The accompanying manual is applicable to a wide variety of companies and provides the basics for how get started, as well as how to enhance existing programs that a company already may have in place,” said Flores.

Reducing reliance on landfills provides both environmental and economic benefits, which are being driven by many of the major brand owners in the plastics industry today, said Nina Goodrich, executive director of GreenBlue, an environmental nonprofit based in Charlottesville, Virginia that works towards the sustainable use of materials.

“GreenBlue and the Sustainable Packaging Coalition support SPI’s Zero Net Waste Program,” Goodrich said. “Providing companies the tools and resources to demonstrate leadership in landfill diversion is an important step towards reducing carbon emissions and developing a circular economy.”

In Europe, companies are working towards reducing the negative impact of plastics on the environment by contributing to a circular economy, and many are seeking funding for these efforts from Horizon 2020.

Horizon 2020 is the biggest ever EU Research and Innovation program with nearly €80 billion of funding available over the seven years 2014 to 2020, in addition to the private investments that this seed money will attract.

Making Plastic Waste Disappear

Baled plastics in Switzerland awaiting a buyer (Photo by mbeo) creative commons license via Flickr

The European Commission’s Executive Agency for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises, ESME, manages the calls for proposals under Horizon 2020’s societal challenge, Climate Action, Environment, Resource Efficiency and Raw Materials.

The agency is funding projects under the Horizon 2020 program that guarantee a sustainable supply and use of raw materials, and the protection and sustainable management of natural resources and ecosystems.

On December 8, 2015 EASME organized a networking meeting for 21 waste-related research and innovation projects.

The meeting kicked off 13 projects selected under Horizon 2020’s “Waste: A resource to recycle, reuse and recover raw materials” call for proposals in 2015.

This year, by the call deadline March 8, the European Commission had received 333 proposals for Horizon 2020 funding for projects in the areas of climate action, environment, resource efficiency and raw materials.

A budget of about €283 million is available in 2016 for projects in these areas. In April, independent expert panels will evaluate the proposals, choosing which ones to fund.

A project funded this way is revolutionizing the secure envelope market. Inspired by EU efforts to promote products made from eco-friendly materials, this Italian initiative seeks to replace envelopes made from polluting polyethylene plastic, with paper, laminated with eco-plastic that incorporates tamper-indication techniques.

The goal of the SELOPE project is to produce at industrial scale an innovative security envelope, made from certified Forest Stewardship Council paper, laminated with eco-plastics and Mater-Bi, a biodegradable, compostable bioplastic made from plants.

By using these innovative materials, the company says it cuts its CO2 emissions, diverts waste from landfills and promotes recycling and compostability.

In the UK, Impact Laboratories Ltd. has developed a method for the cost-efficient separation of mixed polymers, using a patent pending process of vertically arranged blades oscillating to produce separation.

Developed to meet the needs of the recyclers, the process involves a low capital and operational expenditure. This opens the equipment to small and medium sized recyclers across Europe, allowing them to separate plastics which are now classed as too expensive to separate.

This adds value to the recycler, creates jobs, reduces the plastic going to landfill, and provides manufacturers with a rich source of useable recycled material at a local level.

“Our technology has the potential to make a major change in the way plastics are recycled across Europe,” Impact says. “Every unit will reduce plastic to landfill by 2,000 tonnes a year, helping Europe meet the EU goals for plastic recycling by 2020.”

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Crushed plastic bottles awaiting recycling (Photo by Lisa Risager) creative commons license via Flickr

The European Commission has adopted an ambitious Circular Economy Package.

Still working its way through the legislative process is a proposal on waste sets an EU target for recycling of 75 percent of packaging waste by 2030; and a binding target to reduce landfill to maximum of 10 percent of all waste by 2030.

It specifies simplified and improved definitions, harmonized calculation methods for recycling rates throughout the EU will be coupled with economic incentives for packaging producers to put greener products on the market and support recovery and recycling schemes.


Award-winning journalist Sunny Lewis is founding editor in chief of the Environment News Service (ENS), the original daily wire service of the environment, publishing since 1990.

What is Circular Economy

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(Maximpact.com News)

Citizens of the world have realized that people do not have infinite resources. Demand on raw materials has escalated, with no management of waste and the limited supply we have of those materials. Environmental repercussions of climate change and sustainability are now at the top of the global agenda and are mission-critical.

This article focuses on the circular economy and its benefits to help combat our global problems. European countries, particularly the Nordic ones, have embraced the circular theory years ago and are reaping the benefits of zero waste economies while setting good examples for their neighbors.

What Is Circular Economy?

The concept of circular economy calls for the reuse of materials for as long as this is feasible. These materials should be used to their greatest extent and, when a person is done using said materials, should be able to renew or restore the power of these materials for further use down the line. Besides materials, circular economy may also apply to components and products.

Circular economy is in direct opposition to what is known as a linear economy. With this concept, much less thought is put into the long-term ramifications of use of a material, component, or product. Instead, this material is made, a person uses it, and then they throw away what’s left. This creates a productivity dead-end. Over the years we have become a throwaway society.

What Is the History of Circular Economy?

If any one person created the concept of circular economy, they didn’t promote themselves, because research doesn’t attribute this to anybody specifically. Instead, the move towards a circular economy is estimated to have started in the 1970s and gained momentum as the years went by.

There are numerous models that have led to the development of circular economy as it’s understood today. These are as follows:

  • Regenerative design — Credited to John T. Lyle, the concept of regenerative design is similar to what we know as circular economy.
  • Blue economy — Gunter Pauli of Belgium, who worked as the CEO at Ecover, developed the blue economy, which tells us what is left over from a product could become the basis for a new product and revenue stream.
  • Industrial ecology — Focusing specifically on the industrial field, industrial ecology deals with energy flow and material usage in this area.
  • Biomimicry — Popularized by Janine Benyus, biomimicry involves borrowing successful concepts that have already been used and redesigning them for your own purposes.
  • Performance economy — An early pillar in circular economy, industrial analyst and architect Walter Stahel developed this concept back in 1976. He believed that a circular economy could prevent waste, produce more resources, create competition, and make more jobs.
  • Cradle to cradle — Bill McDonough (an architect from the US) and Michael Braungart (a chemist from Germany) developed the cradle to cradle concept. Simply put, this model seeks to cut back on product waste and embrace more production.

How Can Businesses Use This Concept?

As you’ve seen, while circular economy can indeed apply to the universe itself and preserving finite resources, it can also be used as a business model. Business owners big and small can benefit from the school of thought associated with circular economy. Research has found that tens of thousands of jobs can be made to positively stimulate the economy just by following the circular economy model.

Are You Looking for a Circular Expert / Consultant?

At Maximpact, we can help you find the right circular expert consultant. Maximpact consulting network is a select global network of certified consultants in over 200 sectors and sub-sectors, experience in over 680 projects. All consultants are verified through a certification screening process, so that Maximpact can assist clients in making the best decision in finding the exact skill set they need.

Maximpact offers access to a network of circular, impact and sustainability consultants and experts. No matter the scope of your project or the size of your company, you can receive assistance through all stages of the project development process. Maximpact Ecosystems offers advisory, marketing, consulting, and financial services for sectors like environment, water, clean technology, renewable energy, agriculture, and more. With offices in Hong Kong, California, Abu Dhabi, and Monaco, Maximpact can help you move towards a circular economy.

Shipbreaking Moves Off the Beach

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SEATTLE, Washington, October 14, 2015 (Maximpact News) – A protest by the environmental justice organization Basel Action Network (BAN) over an obsolete ship owned by Matson, Inc. being sent to a shipbreaker in India, prompted the shipping company to stop scrapping its vessels on the beaches of India, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

“Because of concerns with recycling practices in South Asia, Matson has decided to expressly prohibit recycling of its vessels in this region going forward,” the company said in a statement last month.

Founded in 1882, Matson provides ships goods Pacific-wide, mainly between the Hawaiian islands and the West Coast of North America. The company’s decision affects 23 vessels that will be scrapped over the next few years.

Shipbreaking companies in India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh operate under dangerous and polluting conditions. Workers labor on tidal sands to cut ships by hand. They breathe in toxic fumes and asbestos, and fall victim to explosions and accidental crushing. And these crude practices pollute the beaches where the shipbreaking takes place.

According to the International Federation for Human Rights, children under the age of 15 make up nearly 20 percent of the shipbreaking workforce in Bangladesh. (see report here)

In September there was an accident on the notorious shipbreaking beach at Chittagong that killed four workers. Five other workers were killed in July, and over 200 deaths have been documented over the past five years.

“Ship owners today can no longer claim ignorance,” said Colby Self, the Green Ship Recycling director at BAN, which is based in Seattle. “They know very well the environmental and human health impacts of their ship recycling decisions, which for too long have been ignored to maximize profits.”

“Matson’s off-the-beach commitment reflects a level of corporate leadership which we hope will be echoed by other U.S. shipping companies,” said Self.

In fact, Matson’s decision is part of a growing awareness among shipping companies of the dangers of on-the-beach shipbreaking and a shift in values toward safer, less toxic ship recycling practices.

The Norwegian Shipowners’ Association and its 160 members recently voted not to permit Norwegian-owned ships to be scrapped on South Asian beaches.

Other large ship owners that have also adopted more responsible ship recycling policies include German Hapag-Lloyd, Danish Maersk Line, Royal Dutch Boskalis, Canadian CSL Group, and the Singaporean China Navigation Company.

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Globally, 1,026 ships were dismantled in 2014.

A total of 641 ships, or 74 percent of the total gross tonnage of dismantled ships, were scrapped in the beach shipbreaking yards of India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, according to the NGO Shipbreaking Platform, based in Brussels.

Ships contain both valuable and toxic materials. Old ships are a source of valuable scrap steel for construction industries. In addition, obsolete ships contain aluminum, copper, silver and brass.

But there are toxics in the old ships too: lead; mercury; asbestos; oil sludge; polychlorinated biphenyls; biocidal anti-fouling paint such as tributyltin; bilge water containing oil, urine, detergents and solvents; and ballast water that can contain tiny animals, plants, viruses, and bacteria.

There are greener ways to dismantle ships that keep these toxics out of the environment while recycling the valuable components.

For example, the Scrap Metal Services subsidiary All Star Metals ship recycling facility in Brownsville, Texas has been operating as a licensed ship recycling, metal processing, and environmental remediation contractor since 2003. The company handles such old vessels as the USS Forrestal, the U.S. Navy’s first supercarrier, commissioned in 1955 but now ready for scrapping.

Jacob Sterling, global head of Environment and Corporate Social Responsibility at Maersk Line, the world’s largest container shipping company, is part of the growing consensus that is moving the shipping industry toward greener recycling.

Writing in the publication “gCaptain” last month, Sterling said, “The vast majority of ships are taken to India, Pakistan or Bangladesh to be scrapped on the beach. There is something quite wrong with that. People in flip flops on beaches are OK. But people on beaches wearing flip flops and no safety gear while taking apart massive cargo ships with hand tools is simply wrong.”

Sterling wrote, “NGOs argue that beaching must end now. We agree. In Maersk Line we have a policy on responsible ship recycling. Since 2006, we have recycled 23 ships responsibly, and we have sent none to the beach.”

But he says private corporations need government support to make this shift. “We really don’t think that the issue of unsafe and unsustainable beaching is well addressed by private companies alone,” Sterling wrote.

He says the real answer is global regulation that raises the legally acceptable minimum standard for ship recycling.

In 2009, the Hong Kong Convention for the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships was adopted. Yet in 2013, only two countries have ratified it, Sterling points out.

“The Hong Kong Convention is not perfect, actually it doesn’t ban beaching, it just makes it a lot harder to scrap ships this way,” wrote Sterling. “But it is the best we have, and if it entered into force, it could be improved over time. So we need more countries to ratify the convention.”

Even before the convention enters into force, it is influencing some South Asian shipbreaking operations to dismantle ships more responsibly.

The Japan-based ship classification company Nippon Kaiji Kyokai, known as ClassNK, has just issued Statements of Compliance (SoC) to two ship recycling facilities in Gujarat, India – the R.L. Kalthia Ship Breaking Pvt. Ltd. and Priya Blue Industries Pvt. Ltd.

The SoCs verify that these two facilities are in line with the Hong Kong Convention.

Although the convention has yet to enter into force, ClassNK said in a statement September 29 that “Kalthia and Priya Blue have both carried out substantial improvements to their facilities in a bid toward safer and greener ship recycling as well as developed the Ship Recycling Facility Plans required for a competent authority’s certification” under the convention.

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Award-winning journalist Sunny Lewis is founding editor in chief of the Environment News Service (ENS), the original daily wire service of the environment, publishing since 1990.


 

Featured image: Jafrabad Chittagong shipbreaking via Wikimedia Commons
Image 01: Shipbreaking workers on a beach in Bangladesh, 2011 (Photo courtesy International Maritime Organization via Flickr)
Image 02: Ships lined up for dismantling on a beach in Bangladesh, 2011 (Photo courtesy International Maritime Organization via Flickr)
Image 03: Crane dismantles an obsolete ship at the Scrap Metal Services subsidiary All Star Metals ship recycling facility in Brownsville, Texas (Photo courtesy Scrap Metal Services)